Killer on death row says he knows where bodies of missing girls

Wednesday, May 15th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) _ A serial killer on death row in Texas has written a letter to The Joplin Globe, claiming to know where two teen-age Oklahoma girls missing since 1999 have been buried.

Tommy Lynn Sells, who authorities have linked to at least 16 slayings across the country, made the claim in a letter to the Globe postmarked May 10.

Sells had suggested earlier, in letters and during an interview in March, that he was involved in the disappearance of Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible from a home near Welch, Okla., about 30 miles southwest of Joplin. But he said he ``went blind'' during killings and had difficulty remembering details.

Sells most recent letter, received Monday, marked the first time he claimed to remember the location. In his own words, Sells alludes to the location of two bodies:

``What do i remember about Dec. 30?'' Sells wrote. ``I want to say this, i remember were 2 bodys are, well i believe i could take you to two bodys. I also want to remember a fire.''

Texas Ranger John Allen said Monday that Sells is considered a suspect in the 1999 slayings of Danny and Kathy Freeman and the disappearance of their daughter, Ashley, and her best friend, Lauria.

The bodies of Ashley's parents were discovered in the remains of their mobile home, which was discovered ablaze before dawn on Dec. 30, 1999. The girls, both 16, have not been seen since the night before, when Lauria stayed at the Freemans' home. Despite a $50,000 reward offered by the families, investigators have reported few leads in the case.

Allen said investigators were proceeding cautiously in regard to Sells' claim in the Welch case, but that he had spoken to some members of the Freeman family and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

During an interview, published by the Globe May 5 in a special section on the murders, Sells claimed that he was passing through Welch after completing a drug run to St. Louis. He said he was high on drugs and alcohol, traveling hard and sleeping little. After the interview, Sells continued to correspond with the Globe.

Allen was one of the investigators who worked with Sells to piece together the chronology of his killings after his arrest for the fatal stabbing of 13-year-old Kaylene Harris of Del Rio, Texas, on Dec. 31, 1999. Kaylene's sleepover friend, Krystal Surles, 10, of Yates Center, Kan., survived the attack and identified Sells.

Sells, 38, now on death row in Livingston, Texas, has also been convicted of strangling 9-year-old Mary Perez during an outdoor festival in April 1999 at San Antonio, Texas.

Authorities also believe Sells is responsible for murders in Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arizona and Nevada. His most gruesome crime may be the 1987 slaying of four members of the Dardeen family at Ina, Ill., including an infant born during the beating of its mother.

Allen said he did not know whether Sells was telling the truth about the Welch murders, but the chance that he may be involved made investigators take him seriously.

But Allen said it is difficult to know when Sells is telling the truth, and he has sometimes contradicted himself.

Another thing complicating Sells claim, Allen said, is that ``he knows he can't be taken out (of death row).'' Texas prison authorities have denied previous requests for Sells to lead investigators to the location of a gun used in a shooting in Tennessee.

``It's time,'' Allen said, ``for him to put up or shut up.''